House of Cards

Jeffery Donaldson has given us permission to publish this lovely poem:


House of Cards

Jeffery Donaldson

For Garry Sherbert



“Ah, that fine fragile cathedral,”

said Jacques Derrida of Northrop Frye’s

Anatomy, one evening he was asked,


and there implied that, sooner or later,

literature’s whole top-heavy elaborate estate,

its fictive papers gingerly assembled,


would come crashing down on itself,

your canny devotions notwithstanding.

Said Frye himself: the world we create


in our imaginations is above time;

when the whole structure is finished,

nature, its scaffolding, is knocked away….


For Monsieur, you have fiction’s ephemera,

the broad-footed obelisk’s weightless

undergirdings, giddy and unhinged.


For the Canuck, nature is the provisional

gizmo, down and out, all gauze and gimcrack,

a mustered rigging’s trial-and-error.


Something between them will have to give.

Look this way and let us watch a moment

this child at work on a house of cards,


her painstaking piecemeal agglomerations,

rows of card-pair tee-pees’ touching tips

rising pyramidal, fine-flicked and unquibbling,


frangible as Tiffany. Her gangly,

jeweller’s-eye-tuned hand at widdershins

and dodging round buttresses athwart


must have a knack for stealth, that furtive

gesture, nearly, of not putting a thing

where you leave it, lifting your fingers free.


The testy habiliments climb to a single point,

light headed, slackening upwards,

all the more shouldering less and less,


next to nothing in the end. Fixed on little

more than the touchy gossamer integra,

she knows its equilibrium is a travesty,


how far from sound-footed, how possessed

of no greater poise than that each

tipped buttress is already half-toppled.


And she knows how we wait for hubris

to come knocking the moment she gingers

a last card onto the ticklish pinnacle.


Her staying it was never in the cards,

we like to say. The rooms are empty.

Once the whole is done, she’ll need to wreck it.


How that last one didn’t trigger the upset

let-down already settled upon, who knows?

Her patience is dizzying. Her fingers, feathers.


In the end she will not keep us guessing,

or leave unproven for a Derrida or Frye

what comes next once she is finished with it,


this dwelling she had a hand in making

that tapers at all odds above the fallen world,

once she is above knocking it down.

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